Over the weekend, there was much to desire when it came to CNN’s online coverage of the Israel-Hamas War. Reality was downgraded to just an “Israeli claim.” Terror tunnels were upgraded to a McDonald’s drive-through. Meanwhile, important stories that provide crucial context for those seeking to understand events continue to be omitted.
Here’s a review of some of the shortcomings in coverage at CNN.com.
Reality is But an Israeli Claim
In a December 17 piece, CNN’s Benjamin Brown doesn’t seem to want to admit the Israelis are right about anything. In a span of just seven sentences, the author includes six phrases to cast doubt on Israeli claims regarding Hamas’s terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip:
The tunnel was a part of Hamas’ “strategic infrastructure” and would be destroyed, according to the IDF. In a video shared by the IDF, the Israeli military claimed that the tunnel was created for Hamas troop movements and as a launching point for attacks.
Footage shared by the IDF and allegedly filmed by Hamas to show the construction of the tunnel shows a large vehicle driving into the tunnel and a makeshift railroad inside it. CNN could not independently verify the footage or the IDF’s claims.
In a statement Sunday, the IDF alleged that the tunnel system was a project of the brother of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, Muhammad Sinwar. The IDF did not provide any evidence to support the claim.
The IDF claims to have exposed “hundreds of terror tunnel shafts throughout the Gaza Strip” and says it is operating “to locate and destroy dozens of attack tunnel routes.”
Perhaps the language would be less jarring if this zeal for qualifying details was applied equally to the claims of all parties.
But this wasn’t even the most bizarre part of the article. Even objective reality doesn’t seem to be enough to convince the reporter:
Last month, the Israeli military uncovered a tunnel shaft on the grounds of the Al-Shifa hospital complex, the enclave’s largest medical facility. Its discovery has been central to the IDF’s argument that there may be a network of tunnels below the hospital.
That is, Brown is casting the existence of a tunnel underneath al-Shifa hospital as an “argument” by Israel that there exists a tunnel underneath the hospital.
The Bright Side of Terror Tunnels?
A December 15 article by CNN’s Nadeen Ebrahim, entitled “Israel is testing out flooding the Hamas tunnels. Here’s what it could look like scaled up,” provides a bizarre twist in its discussion of Israel’s apparent plan to flood some of Hamas’s terror tunnels. According to the piece:
The tunnels however have also acted as an economic lifeline for Gaza’s residents, transporting people, goods and sometimes even American fast food amid a 17-year blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.
For one, the “blockade” has not been in place for 17 years. It was imposed in January 2009, following the launching of over 5,000 rockets from Gaza toward Israel since 2005, the year Israel withdrew from the territory.
But Ebrahim’s description is confusing two different types of tunnels. Smuggling tunnels, which have been used to traffic in goods and people between Gaza and Egypt, are not the tunnels Israel is currently flooding. Part of the reason is that Egypt beat Israel to it when it destroyed many smuggling tunnels on its border, including by flooding them with sewage.
The overwhelming majority of tunnels in Gaza are not of this nature, though. The people being “transported” in the tunnels are not ordinary Gazans, but Palestinian terrorists. The goods being transported in the tunnels are not McDonald’s Big Macs for hungry Gazans, but weapons for Hamas and stolen humanitarian aid.
The odd passage suggests there is a humanitarian component to a network of terror tunnels devoted to military purposes. Unfortunately, it tarnishes what was an otherwise solid piece that provided readers with some often missing but important context about the terror tunnels.
Missing Context on “Journalists” in Gaza
Unfortunately, context was missing in another Friday piece at CNN. In a December 15 article, entitled “Al Jazeera cameraman dies after Israeli attack in southern Gaza, network says,” the background regarding “journalists” killed is hidden. The authors – Abeer Salman, Kareem Khadder, Lucas Lilieholm, and Heather Chen – cite a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists for their claim that “at least 64 journalists and media workers” have been “killed in Gaza since Israel’s siege began on October 7, following Hamas’ deadly terror attacks.”
Right off the bat, the claim is false. The figure of “64” includes Israeli journalists murdered inside of Israel, not Gaza. Moreover, they were murdered during, not following Hamas’s attack. Notably, as pointed out by CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal, the CPJ has gotten the facts wrong about their murder, claiming, for example, that one journalist who was murdered inside his home was killed by a “political group” while on “dangerous assignment.”
And it’s details like that which are missing from the CNN article. As two experts on international and security affairs pointed out for CAMERA last month, the CPJ’s figure is an “inflated statistic” and a “cynical exploitation of the word journalist.” That’s because many of those Gaza-based “journalists” are working on behalf of terrorist organizations. Seventeen of those listed by CPJ worked for Hamas’s media institutions. Two worked for Hezbollah’s al-Mayadeen. Two worked for institutions affiliated with Islamic Jihad.
Moreover, as the same CAMERA analysis pointed out a month ago, by then at least five of those listed by CPJ had at best a very tenuous connection to the profession of journalism. For example, one of them was a “deputy director of finance and administration” at a news agency, not an actual journalist.
To the credit of the article, it does state that the figure includes “journalists and media workers,” but the language is inadequate to convey the fact that the figure is not just journalists killed while engaged in journalism. It includes those who have likely never engaged in journalism at all.
Here are some stories CNN didn’t find newsworthy.
Hamas’s Cruel Exploitation – In Beit Lahiya, Hamas set a trap near the entrance of two tunnels, using children’s dolls and backpacks, along with a speaker playing the sounds of a distressed child speaking in Hebrew. Thankfully, Israeli intelligence uncovered the plot before any troops were harmed. Notably, the tunnels led to a network that went under a nearby school and medical facility. The well-documented incident goes a long way to explaining why Israeli soldiers are on edge, given Hamas’s cruel exploitation of and harming of the innocent.
Doctors or Terrorists? – Over the last week, Israeli forces detained some 90 terrorists who were holed up in the Kamal Adwan hospital, including a large number who surrendered in a widely shared video. Among those detained were a number of terrorists who had participated in the October 7 massacre in southern Israel. Israeli forces then found many weapons hidden inside the hospital’s maternity ward, including inside incubators. Last week, the CNN website devoted plenty of space to claims by Gazan health officials that “healthcare workers” were being taken or abused. Surely, the presence of weapons and terrorists who carried out horrific atrocities warrants an update on CNN’s website?
ICRC’s Shame – After running what can only be described as a puff piece about the International Committee for the Red Cross on December 9, CNN’s website was curiously quiet about the outrage against the organization over the weekend. The ICRC President, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, refused to even take a picture with the families of Israeli hostages held by Palestinian terrorists. Similarly, after the ICRC president claimed that “more public pressure” won’t work on Hamas, Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out the obvious, given the organization’s silence, and asked: “Why don’t you try?”
The plight of Ofelia Roitman – The freed hostage Ofelia Roitman gave an interview on Israel’s Channel 12 in which she described how a Palestinian doctor refused to treat her in captivity, despite a gunshot to her hand, because he refused to talk to a Jew. She was held hostage in the apartment of a Palestinian couple who, according to Ofelia, gave her very little food despite having plenty.